The word deconstruction has a bad reputation among mainstream Christians. Why? Maybe because it sounds destructive. Even among exvangelicals the word is sometimes dismissed as being inadequate. I believe it is a powerful picture of transformation.
In my study journal, Deconstruction: Your Journey in Faith, I argue that deconstruction is synonymous with the discipleship process known as spiritual formation. This connection has become more clear over the past few years as I studied discipleship and found some definitions and practices to be flawed. If you will start there, you might see why I think deconstruction is very constructive!
In his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney proposes that godliness is most closely achieved when Christians pursue disciplines including: prayer, Scriptural reading, worship, evangelism, service, stewardship, fasting, journaling, learning, and perseverance.1 On the face of it I might agree with Whitney that these pursuits support the construction of discipleship. However my experience in deconstruction ministry tells me that these pursuits are only as constructive as they are free from toxicity.
On the whole I found Whitney’s approach to be heavily works-based and ironically dismissive of spiritual practices that are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Of these extra-Biblical activity he writes, “If it were necessary for spiritual maturity and progress in holiness it would have been recorded and promoted in Scripture.”2 I can make a list of activities I find necessary to my faith journey that are not specifically found in the Bible. Can’t you?
As a contrast, Paul Pettit’s working definition of formation is holistic and dynamic. In Foundations of Spiritual Formation he writes, “This process should not be divided into the spiritual and physical, or private and public, or secular and sacred. It involves the integrated, whole person—one’s manner of thinking, habits and behaviors, and manner of relating with God and others—and it should result in a life of loving God and loving others well.”3
Looking at these two sources for definitions of faith formation (construction) provides a segue into the need for deconstruction. In my study journal, Deconstruction: Your Journey in Faith, I acknowledge that spiritual disciplines are important but sometimes are unhealthy and abusive. How do we evaluate what we keep and what we release? Enter the transformative process of deconstruction, during which we “faithfully examine how our relationship with God has been influenced by traditions, theology, church leadership, and societal factors experienced in our modern context.”4
Deconstruction is a tool that strips away harmful theology and traditions to reveal a healthy framework of faith. It is a necessary component of spiritual formation. Tweet
I have heard from several people in my Facebook forum, Deconstruction Zone, that it is confusing (understatement) to be ostracized from church community because of spiritual formation. As painful as it is, we see the bitter roots of a community we once considered to be healthy and life-giving. There are two major takeaways I would like to offer:
First, church buildings become idols when attendance is equated to godliness. If a church community excommunicates you, consider that they value your attendance more than your spiritual formation.
Second, the compass we choose to guide our faith journey is critical. It is vital to choose the compass of loving God and loving others as we do ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). We can be confident that when this compass leads us away from specific people or away from a specific church building, we are being set apart on purpose and for a purpose.
Do you have a study journal that is helping you navigate your faith journey? If not, guess what? I recently published one and would be honored to journey with you. My 6-Module journal is called, Deconstruction: Your Journey in Faith, and is now on Amazon. Within each module you will find a link to access audio teachings on Scriptural passages that inform and support deconstruction.
Grab your compass and I’ll see you on the trail!
1 Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Revised and Updated. (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014), chap. 1.
2 Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 7.
3 Paul Pettit, Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2008), 24.
4 Stacey Byington Wynn, Deconstruction: Your Journey in Faith (Self-Published, 2021), 7.